Although born enslaved and indentured, the Goodridge Brothers’ parents, William C. and Evalina, became successful entrepreneurs in York, Pennsylvania. They taught their children hard work and the importance of fighting for equality.
In the early 1860s, their daughter, Mary Goodridge Nichols, moved to East Saginaw, Michigan, and her brothers soon followed. In 1863, Glenalvin, William O., and Wallace Goodridge established their new photography studio, where their business thrived until the death of the last of the three brothers, Wallace, in 1922.
They overcame racial prejudice to develop one of the most successful photography studios in Saginaw – perhaps in Michigan.
Their portrait work demonstrates skill and artistry and captured a wide cross-section of the growing community’s population. Their views of Saginaw and logging camps document Saginaw’s rise as a great lumbering center and its rebirth as an industrial city.
The Goodridge Brothers were passionate about recording scenes of Saginaw and developed innovative ways to market their views. Attuned to the fashions and fads of the period, they produced images in numerous formats. These included small images known as Carte de Visites that were collected and placed in albums. They also produced stereo views, which consisted of two almost identical images mounted on a single card. When placed in a special viewer, these images have a three-dimensional effect. The Goodridge’s sold their images to national publications, local view books and postcard publishers. In 1902 a contract with the Albertype Company of Brooklyn, New York resulted in the publication of The Goodridge Brothers’ Art Souvenir of Saginaw, Michigan, USA.
About 1910, shortly after they had reconstructed their studio following a 1908 fire, they purchased a Cirkut camera that allowed them to take unique panoramic photographs. Saginaw historians owe a great debt to the Goodridge Brothers for the unequaled record they created of Saginaw during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They are recognized nationally as being pioneer photographers and their work is included in numerous books on the history of photography.
Although Goodridges’ studio was in the 200 block of South Washington, they often photographed South Jefferson Avenue and its residents.
Both the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History and the Local History and Genealogy Collection at Hoyt Library preserve collections of their work and information about them is available on both the library and museum’s website.